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Sunday, October 18, 2015

LOGAN IS A BIG PUSSY

KHON KAEN TO VANG VIENG

The problem with being off of the beaten tourist trail is convenience.  The oh so annoying tuk tuk drivers are sorely missed when you want cheap transport.  Nobody speaks English.  They don't seem to read Thai well either.

It's a little harder and you need a lot more patience.

Through a combination of Google translate, sign language and interpretive dance, I was able to convince them there is indeed a Laos consulate and I wanted to go there.  After getting them to agree it might indeed be possible to get there by taxi, I had them call a taxi.

Showed the printed version "Laos consulate" to the taxi driver who said "OK".  After all the crap I went through with the people at the hotel desk this makes me believe they should be told as little as possible.  Just "I want a taxi" and when they keep asking "Where go?" just respond "Yes, taxi!"


The Lao consulate was a treat.  You walk in, give them your passport, one of the dozen small photos you keep of yourself (if you've been reading the blog any length of time and don't, that's on you - see 'traveler's tips' sections) and the money.  Presto.  About ten minutes later you get a visa.  Another nice thing is that the visa itself is good for two months.  You have that long to get into the country and then that starts your total of one month of time within the country.  In other words, you can get the visa - stay in Thailand for say six weeks then go to Lao and you get one month in Lao.  Handy.

Normally, you are able to get bus tickets a few days in advance.

Not so for the 'international bus'.  You have to buy the ticket about an hour before the bus leaves.   Not earlier - the office isn't open.

Note this is a lot handier than getting transport to 'friendship bridge', getting rolled by unscrupulous taxi, tuk tuk and bus drivers and eventually finding other transport into Laos.  Believe me, those assholes are waiting for you at the border.  To use the international bus, you just need your Lao visa ahead of time.  No visa, no ticket.

Before catching the international bus, I'd read a lot about it on the internet - AC bus, non- AC bus, they are luxurious, etc.

What a load of shit.


There is one bus.  It leaves sometime between eight and nine.  Buy your tickets around seven AM.  There is another later in the afternoon if you screw that up.

There is only one bus.  The only time it may have been grand is in the seventies.  Maybe.

Considering it is a relatively short (under five or six hours) trip, it is bearable but not really comfortable.  I turned off and went into my usual 'traveler's funk' where you are either asleep, dozing, meditating or just switched off.

Sometimes, I am difficult to rouse.

The strange thing is that they made a half hour meal stop on what is actually a fairly short bus trip.  I think it was 'fuck it, the bus driver needs to eat and can't be bothered to do it before his shift'.

The strangest and most annoying thing is at the Lao border you need to purchase a fifty baht 'over time pass card'.  Essentially, it is bribery with gates that only open when you put this card in.  If you get there before four PM, Monday through Friday supposedly you don't have to pay this bribe but other people have reported they had to pay a slightly reduced amount.  Shouldn't the government be paying it's employees?   Ah, corruption.


It's annoying but under two dollars.  Be sure to look for the small kiosk that sells this so you can just pick it up once you first get to the Lao side of the border and don't have to go back for it and try to understand people who should be able to express the need for this in English and can't.

We eventually arrived in Vientiene where the tuk tuk drivers were pushing in so close to the door I had to yell at them to move so I could get out of the bus.  Oh, the smell of money.  I ended up just falling on them because I'm clumsy.  My only worry was getting pick pocketed.

After getting a little hosed by a tuk tuk driver, I got taken to a money changer then the mini bus which goes from Vientiene to Vang Vieng.

I'd read a lot about how you have to be at the northern bus station, and how there were various types of buses and all of that.  Sure, that shit may exist, but you end up 'on the tourist trail' and when the tuk tuk driver hears you want a bus to Vang Vieng, they just take you to where the buses regularly leave.

When I say bus I mean 'uncomfortable small assed seats minivan crammed with other tourists'.  The other tourists are great to talk to.  Especially since when they say the ride is three hours, know that they are completely full of shit.  You're looking at nearly double that.

A little like this but much older and shittier.

After nightfall I arrived in Vang Vieng.  It's what I expected after reading it's entry on Wikitravel.  It's a small party town full of kids drunk on being so far from their parents and six dollar beers.   The beer here is freakishly expensive.  I look forward to getting back to Cambodia.

Getting shots is about half the price of beers.  Weird.

RETRACTION:  I don't know if it was the fatigue, lack of food, noise of the music or the thick Irish accent but I misheard 'fifteen' as 'fifty'.  The actual price is still about forty percent (roughly) more than Cambodia but definitely doable.

They have plenty of stores selling various bottles of alcohol.  I know I'll end up drinking room temperature booze in my room later.

After crawling out of the minivan, I got a couple fliers for food, a free drink at the only Irish bar in town and spent the night at an over priced hotel.

After eating a little bit of meat on a stick - my first food in twenty hours - I immediately had ten shots of various things at the Irish pub.  It helped being a bit buzzed but mainly I was punch drunk from lack of proper sleep, food and water.  Slept fine though.

While at the bar, I did meet a guy who had a 'backpackers hotel'.  Tried it the next day but without AC, I just sat there with sweat running down my body.  Said 'fuck this, I am going to be a big pussy' and went to a place I'd found after checking in to the backpacker place and just checked in there.  Surprisingly, I was given most of my money back at the backpacker place.  I'd not really expected to get anything back.

So now I'm hanging out in an AC place, fighting with their inconsistent internet and writing this blog.



CUSTOMS IN SE ASIA

There are no 'public displays of affection' at all.  Even if the people are married, you will never see them kiss, holding hands or violently mount each other dressed only in warpaint.

Be sure to yell "Surprise, mutherfucker!"

So does that mean you can't?  It's up to you.  I like to annoy the locals less.  You might not.  Who am I to tell you not to work them up into some sort of disgusted rage?

And now, for a picture that is easy on the eyes.

Because bewbs...



PRICES  (Thailand)

Laos visa, with small 'rush' bribe, 1600 baht.
The taxi to get there and back to your hotel including wait time and small bribe, 300 baht.
There and back again - a journey to the very inconveniently located 7 KM out of town because corruption wins bus station, 200 baht.


PRICES (Laos)

Large beer, 50,000 kip.  Yes, this is six dollars.  No, I have no idea why people are drinking beer here.  RETRACTION:  15,000 not 50,000.  See above.
Really cheap place, 50,000 kip.
Nice place with AC, 100,000 kip.
Best places I've found here, around $50 USD.  I've not looked at the rooms but for two people (who are not poor backpackers) this seems a pretty reasonable price for the best in the area.

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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia | Michigan | Illinois | Colorado |

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